I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. I think that a great deal of my political and societal beliefs have come from the fact that I grew up in a fairly progressive parish, which had a strong sense of social justice. As a result of this I still identify as a Catholic, Mrsdave and I were married in Catholic church and we’ve chosen to have Buster Boy and the Troll Princess baptised. However, if I’m completely honest with myself, it’s probably more accurate to describe me as a religious agnostic, I believe that there is a God, but I don’t claim to be in possession of the universal truth. For every thing I like about the Catholic Church, there’s another thing I can’t agree with, but I enjoy the ritual, the sense of community and the place that the Church has in my identity.
Which is why Mrsdave thinks it’s hilarious that I want a plenary indulgence.
Indulgences are like a get out of jail free card for purgatory. Somewhere along the line it was decided that although your sins are forgiven once you confess them, there is still a temporal penalty that must be paid in purgatory before you can go to heaven, so naturally there needed to be a counter-balance to this, which is where indulgences came in.
There were a number of different things you could do to gain an indulgence, and some indulgences would only partly relieve your term in purgatory, while a plenary indulgence would completely remove your temporal penalty. Unsurprisingly a market in indulgences sprang up, with scammers becoming professional pardoners and handing out indulgences for a fee. The Church certainly wasn’t blameless in this either, there’s no shortage of examples of Popes and other clergy using indulgences as a fund raising exercise.
As I said, it’s probably more accurate to call me a religious agnostic. I think it’s rather arrogant to think that if there is an omnipotent God he’s incapable of appearing in different forms to different people, which pretty much puts me at odds with one of the basic tenants of the Roman Catholic Church. So why is it that I want a plenary indulgence? Call it after-life insurance or superstition, I don’t know, but I know that whatever deity exists I’ve done enough to piss them off, so I figure it makes sense to take whatever steps necessary to ameliorate that. If I’ve thrown my hat in with the Church of Rome, I might as well take whatever redemption that they have on offer.
What makes the whole situation more laughable is that logically, I find the idea of seeking an indulgence from a Church whose teachings I only partially agree with really silly. Logic, however, is not strong enough to convince me.